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Custom Tents Guide: Making Your Own Customized Pop Up Canopy

The Kingpin is right here to answer your canopy tent conundrums, and today he is focusing on custom pop up canopies. Why would you want a customized pop up canopy, anyway? Aside from the obvious bonus of having a personalized pop up to show off your brand or company to onlookers, there is also the only reason that truly matters to the Kingpin: who wouldn't want one of these badboys?!

There are many reasons why you would want a custom job for your canopy, but in most cases because you need it to have special printing. It could be a logo, a brand name, your tag line, a greeting, even a marriage proposal! Whatever printing you need to emblazon on your canopy is possible, and it’s not all that expensive either. If you just need printing on your canopy, you can get a standard frame and just have the canopy customized. It will save you some real money.

In some cases, you may find that you have peculiar needs. You may need a non-standard size pop up tent for your trail party, car, lawn, event, or trade show. On the other hand, you may need something that folds into a smaller parcel than the typical, or made of a different material. It all depends on the need. You may also need special placement of walls, doors, windows, etc. Here is how to create your own customized pop up canopy.

Find a Supplier

The first thing you need to do is to get in touch with a reliable supplier of customized tents. This is easy enough if you go online. However, it would be advisable to find one within driving distance in case you need something fixed or replaced. Online suppliers may be cheaper, but you may end up spending more if you don’t get what you expect or paid for. The supplier can walk you through the available options for customization, and will even throw in the graphics and design for the printing of your canopy. It is important when canvassing for suppliers that you get a list of prices from two or more so that you can comparison shop.

List Down Your Requirements

After talking to a supplier, you should have a good idea of what they can do for you. Some companies will only do custom printing for standard tents, so if you need more than that, you should stop wasting time and find other suppliers. Make a list of what you need; you don’t have to be too technical about it. You need to ask for a quote for a custom canopy tent based on:

Things to Consider

  • Size
  • Type of Protection
  • Portability
  • Function
  • Price

Most will have no problems with the size of the pop up tent itself, although it could have consequences in the set up and break down if it becomes too big. Your best bet is to break up a big canopy into sections to make your life easier.

NOTE FROM THE KINGPIN: If you want to play around with the canopy tent dimensions a bit before actually taking the plunge and ordering one for yourself you can check out the Kingpin's article on tent size considerations. The post features plenty of tent size calculator sites that may be of use...

Materials are another matter. Some manufacturers have patented materials that they use exclusively, but while they may be an improvement on the basic material, they will normally fall under standard materials. For frames, these are typically:

Canopy Tent Frames

  • Steel
  • Aluminum
  • Powder coated
  • PVC

The frame material will determine how long your tent will last. Steel is stronger than aluminum, but it is also heavier, more expensive, and rusts. Aluminum, on the other hand, bends easily, so it can be a problem if you need to set it up and take it down frequently. You can use powder coated steel or aluminum to boost the performance of either material, and your supplier can give you quotes on all three.

pop up gazebo 1bb

If you are handy with the tools, you can actually build your own frame. The easiest and most affordable DIY frame is PVC pipe (Schedule 40 is best) that you can get from any hardware, although metal pipes such as EMT tubes can also work. There are prefabricated PVC joints in various configurations which you can use to put the pipes together. Note, however, that PVC pipes bend easily, so it would be a good idea to keep the pipes holding up the cover short. You may want to use steel pipes for the legs, just to be on the safe side. You will also need lots of duct tape for a semi-permanent bond.

Fabrics

  • Vinyl-coated polyester
  • Woven acrylic
  • Canvas
  • Polyethylene
  • Nylon

The fabric will determine whether you can use the tent outdoors. Vinyl-coated polyester is very heavy, although it is water-resistant and provides UV protection. Canvas absorbs water, so it can get heavy and waterlogged when it rains. Most manufacturers will provide paraffin-coated canvas to make it water resistant. These two materials are ideal for heavy-duty use, or for permanent-fixtures such as carports or patio covers. It is not ideal for trade shows and picnics, however, as they are not portable. In all probability, you will not be able to use these materials with the standard aluminum frame; you may have to specify a heavier gauge if you want to keep it light.

This guys can smile all he wants, this super bland white pop up ain't gonna get him ANYWHERE.

You may want to go for lighter materials such as polyester or nylon, which naturally resists water, although they do not last as long even with normal use, and they deteriorate quickly under heavy use in hot weather. You can specify PVC-coated nylon from your supplier if you plan to use your tent regularly.

A note on the frame type: If you asked for a pop-up tent frame, it should have a pipe-frame that may or may not need assembly, depending on your agreement. Some suppliers will give you an accordion type frame, and that is the best for small tents because they are easy to set up and tear down. However, accordion type frames are usually more expensive, and the joints are vulnerable to twisting, rust, and damage.

Get a Quote

When you have everything down pat from the size of the finished tent to the materials, you can ask your suppliers for a quote and start haggling with one or two that appears to give the best deal. If you have a tight deadline, you will want to do this as quickly as possible, and expect to pay a premium for a rush job.

Make sure that your supplier understands you want to be able to put it up on your own, so it has to be easy to assemble. Ask them to include any stakes and lanyards you may need. If the tent has to be portable, make sure you include a carry bag or wheeled trolley in the mix. You can avoid additional expenses when you include everything you need in the initial quote. You can start breaking it down when you know how hard you are going to get hit. It will not hurt to check out how much pre-made tents similar to one you are having custom-built costs. It will give you a baseline for gauging your screaming point.

Finalize the Price

Make sure that you take notes about your discussions with your supplier so you know what you both agreed on. Once you are done dickering, ask your supplier to send you a final quote so that you can make sure everything you discussed is there, including the expected date of delivery. If everything is in order, send in the final order and down payment. Do not pay in full until you have had a chance to look over the work, checked each component, and had it assembled. It gives you leverage in case something is missing, damaged, or not up to specs.

ANOTHER NOTE FROM THE KINGPIN: Paying for party tents or pop ups can sometimes be tricky business! Check out the Kingpin's post on the best event tent buying tips to keep yourself and your brand new purchase in check.

Inspect the Final Product

Check the tent immediately upon delivery to make sure everything was sent and made according to cocker. Inspect the printing, the colors, and placement of the graphics if you had it done. If anything is amiss, inform your supplier immediately.

Pay special attention to the stitching of the cover. It is important that it is done well because you will be stretching the material over the frame. If it unravels, you could end up with two or more strips of canvas or polyethylene that is good for nothing.

Also check if you were provided with the correct number of poles, connectors, and anchoring materials. Make sure that none of the poles are bent or otherwise damaged.

Custom Tent Manufacturers

If you are looking to customize just one tent for your business or personal use, then the best supplier may be someone local. You can probably get the bets price and service when you stick to your community. However, if your project needs special handling or you require two or more tents made, then you may want to go with the bigger players in custom tent making. Here are a five that may fit the bill:

1. EZ Up

If you are looking for a custom-print job, then EZ Up is a good choice. It is a well-known pop up tent manufacturer and their products are easy to assemble. However, because they are mostly into mass production of standard tents, you may not have any luck with having custom-built frames and cover. Price ranges from $139 to $1,450, depending on the size and style of the tent. EZ Up has a Fast Track program for some tent packages that guarantees 48-hours turnaround for your custom-printed canopy tent.​

2. Splash Tents

It is the same for this company, and they actually use E-Z Up tents for their canvas. However, they specialize in corporate branding, and provides free design assistance. This can be a major factor when you are pressed for time and talent. Tent prices range from $399 to $1,197.​

One thing's for sure: these guys have done all sorts of customized pop up designs! Take your pick...

3. Denver Tent Co.

This is one of the oldest tent manufacturing companies in the US, and they make no easy promises when it comes to manufacturing custom tents. Most of their products appear to be for the outdoor sports and camping, but a pop up canopy tent is just a simplified version, anyway. They specialize in customized tent covers, but they do accommodate custom tent orders. Their Party canopies range in price from $760 (15 x 15) to $1,790.​

4. BuyShade.com

This company promises that they can work with any specification you can throw at them for a custom tent. Their pop-up tents range from $95 to $1,875.​

5. TentCraft

You will love this supplier if you are in a hurryl They guarantee 3-days turn-around time for pop up canopy tents. They’re pretty cagey about their prices, though, as they only do custom built tents (yeay!). There are no standard pricing information available. Ask for a free quote to find out more.​

These manufacturers all offer custom design and printing. The price for the printing ranges from $350 to $6,000, depending on the size of the print, the type of printing, and the colors used. Each manufacturer will have a different approach to pricing, so it would be best to ask for a quote directly.

Worth all the Trouble?

There is no doubt that is way easier to buy a standard pop up canopy tent, and it is typically cheaper, too! However, if you have special needs, then you really have no choice but to go for custom built tents. You should ask yourself if the need justifies the additional effort and expense. In some cases where branding is important, such as at a sponsored event or when doing promotions in the mall or the street, there is really no way around it. You need to get your logo or brand name on that cover or you will significantly decrease your impact on your target market.

​On the other hand, if you simply need to have shelter or shade for your porch or car, then getting one custom-built makes no sense. With Amazon and eBay crawling with pop up canopy tents going for as low as $50, there really is no contest. Of course, the trade off when you get the cheapest on the lot is that it probably won’t last. Don’t be a cheapskate. Get a good quality pop up canopy from a manufacturer known for durability for your needs. It will be money well spent.

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